Geek Confessional: My “second book” was a horrible YA adventure

Last time I was in the Confessional, I shared the story of how, when I was a kid, I drew horrible comic books that I somehow deluded myself into thinking would be my path to publication.


I mean, who wouldn’t want to read dozens of books about this guy?

But eventually, I came to realize that I simply stunk up the joint as an artist. Whenever someone read one of these books, I had to sit next to them and explain what was happening on the page. I came to realize that, if I really wanted to tell stories, maybe I’d have to try writing an actual novel.

So when I was in sixth grade, I hand-wrote a book about an alien invasion. It was horrible. Ghastly, even. The plot was nonsensical, the tone varied from uber-serious to comically ridiculous, and eventually, I tucked it in a drawer in my desk, never to be seen again.

But I wasn’t done with the writing thing yet. No, I had a new idea: what if, on the planet Venus, there was a war between computers and robots? And what if the leader of the computers boarded a spaceship and flew it to Earth, whereupon arriving, his ship burned up and he wound up smashing into the head of a newborn baby boy? And rather than killing this kid (which, let’s face it, a metal sphere the size of a golf ball falling out of orbit should do to a newborn baby), the computer instead integrated itself into the kid’s brain, only to lay dormant until the kid entered middle school?

That was the premise of my “second book,” Max and Me. Max was the name of the computer (short for “Maximum X-Q-75,” his full designation).

And the “Me?” Well, that would have been me. Or a literary version of myself. I totally Mary Sue-ed this book. I even named the human kid with the computer in his brain after myself. John Roberts was a shy and awkward middle school student in my hometown. He was a pastor’s kid who was bright but bullied for his extreme height. But then, one fateful day, the alien computer in his head reactivated and the two of them went on numerous adventures. They saved their hometown from terrorists. They traveled back to Venus where they defeated the evil robots. They even convinced the French organization of IFREMER that they shouldn’t salvage objects from the wreck of the RMS Titanic (which was a big deal to me at the time). And of course John got the girl (who was totally based on my middle school crush at the time).

Ugh. I still shudder thinking about this one.

And here’s the thing: I really wanted to sell this thing to a publisher. I had a whole series of books planned out. Max and John were going to be big ol’ heroes, not just on Earth, but all throughout the Solar System and beyond. The problem was, I had no idea what I was doing. I wrote one draft of the story and figured that was good enough to be an international best seller. But I didn’t know how to contact any publishers.

Now thankfully, this one is lost to the ages. I used to have a printout of it somewhere, but I have no idea where it wound up. And the computer files for it are lost as well.

So what did I move on to after this? Well, come back in two weeks if you want to find out.

Author @JohnWOtte talks about the awful YA sci fi adventure he wrote as a kid. Click To Tweet


  1. ^___^ If you reconfigured it now since THE HIVE was so amazing, I would buy it! Sounds a bit like MAX STEEL in an odd sort of way, so it might have even become a best-seller if you had been given the right tools to continue. You may have been a visionary before your time! I still have a spiral-bound cursive-written Fantasy I wrote in middle school. Once again, thanks for sharing your journey with us. It’s nice to know that creativity beats within the hearts of many in various ways along the road to finding the right media and story to bring it to the fore. Once a story won’t leave you alone, you know it has to be told, if for only one other person. Writing is a true passion that’s like falling in love each time the story chooses you as the partner to write it. Some people might think that sounds strange, but God is so amazing that He can send inspiration to us in the most unlikely of ways. LUV YA BUNCHES IN JESUS WITH HUGS & HOPE! Tonja Condray Klein (TCK)

  2. My first story was about a T-Rex sized chicken named Biggy who rampaged Jurassic Park style with his huge flock. It was part horror, with a tiny bit of dumb comedy thrown in. Since there was a movie about giant man eating rabbits, maybe the idea wasn’t so bad. Chickens are more frightening than bunnies.
    I eventually realized people couldn’t relate to a giant man-eating chicken, so Country in Chaos was born, which is a story I hope to get published someday. It still gives me problems since one of the two main characters was based off myself. (In the first draft, she had a long lost identical twin, who has since been replaced with a much more original male character.)

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